Monday, February 20, 2012

"Soul Rider"

My trips home always seem to be everything they should be. No matter where I end up living, Northern Minnesota will always be home. Sure, there are many places just as or more beautiful and scenic, but I will always love returning to the forests of Northern Minnesota.

I left my parent's house later than I wanted to Sunday morning, but Sunday mornings back home are always about gathering at my parent's for coffee, breakfast, and stories. This past Sunday was no different, so by the time I left the house it was already after 9 a.m. in the morning.

I started my ride near McCarthy Beach State Park north of town and was greeted by these two quiet sentinels perched in a tree near some open water. They tolerated my presence long enough for me to take a few quick photos. Usually when I get into a situation like this I generally end up missing the shots because my camera is not at the ready. I thought these two would be long gone by the time I got my camera out of my backpack. Without checking the camera settings I took several quick photos and obviously lucked out. Truly a great way to start a ride.

The ride started at the park and I immediately picked up the snowmobile trail that headed out of the park towards Beatrice Lake. As I approached Beatrice Lake I picked up the Taconite Trail which took me out to the Beatrice Lake Forest Road. The Taconite Trail is a snowmobile trail which runs 165 miles from Grand Rapids on the western end of the Iron Range all the way to Ely.

The snow conditions were absolutely phenomenal compared to our non snow winter in the Twin Cities and everywhere else south of the Iron Range and Northeastern Minnesota. Snow depths are still far lower than what they should be this time of year, but at this point I'll take anything I can get. The temps were already near 30(F) when I started and hit 40(F) by the the time my ride ended in the early evening.

Conditions on the Taconite Trail were fantastic and during my entire time on the trail I didn't see another soul. It was as if I had the entire forest to myself. The only time I encountered people on sleds was on my return trip to Side Lake. I also saw an older couple out for a Sunday ride on the forest roads. Almost all the people you see in this area this time of year are locals just out to enjoy a day in the woods.

Riding snowmobile trails has never been very comfortable for me. Especially some of the trails north of my hometown. They have a lot of sharp corners and rolling terrain and last thing most people on a snowmobile expect to see on the trail is someone on a bike with fat tires. For this reason I tend to stay off the snomo trails and stick to the forest roads.

The day gave me the opportunity to ride in a good variety of conditions and terrain. Everything from snowmobile trails to forest roads to four wheeler tracks and I even did a couple of lake crossings on the tracks left behind by snow machines. It made for a wonderful day of riding.

As the temperatures rose through the 30's the snow conditions became rather soft especially out in the open lake areas.

Riding the forest roads was great especially since the conditions were firm and fast.

"Snack Time"

Blue bird skies were the order of the day.

There was plenty of wolf scat in the area, but unfortunately I was never able to catch a glimpse of a wolf.

As the sun got lower in the sky it was time to head back to the trailhead. Although I had lights with me and would have loved to keep riding, Anne (my mom) was expecting me home for dinner. There is nothing better than spending a day out in the woods on a bike only to return home to one of your mother's home cooked meals. There truly is nothing finer and no matter how badly you want to ride you just don't let down your 89 year old mom and make her worry. That would be a shame and a "major fail".

Leaving Beatrice Lake Forest Road behind and heading back to Side Lake, the car, and a wonderful home cooked dinner. My journeys north are truly good for my mind and soul and it is always difficult for me to return to the city.

I have a tendency to not concern myself too much with training (in a serious manner), miles ridden, or other stuff. I ride because I simply like to ride and that is all that matters. A friend of mine told me that it appeared to her that...I prefer to do the long, lonely, quiet, "soul rides".


Joboo said...

You must've thought you were in heaven with "all" the snow we have here, at least compared to the metro!!
;) Lol
This has been a awesome year for lake riding, that's for sure!!
I'm glad you enjoyed your time "up north"!!

We're looking at anywhere from 3-7" through tomorrow night. Hope you guys get some down your way too!!


Vito said...

Joe ~ It was rather heavenly:)
Looking forward to the North Shore in a couple of weeks.
It's snowing here right now. Maybe a couple of inches tonight. I'll take it:)

Herringbone said...

Great story! I like your thoughts on the landscape. Tranquility. Nice shots of the eagles. A sight that will always be majestic,for sure. Thanks for the links. Seems like a very cool area.

Doug said...

Amazing photos Bill. As always.